As America’s vehicle of choice, the pickup truck has become incredibly ingrained in our national identity. But can pickup trucks survive in a world of $4.00 a gallon gasoline and an increasingly urban population? Automakers like Chrysler certainly hope so, as pickup trucks are their bread-and-butter money makers.
So Chrysler’s announcement that the new Ram 1500 can achieve up to 25 MPG on the highway is big news for pickup enthusiasts nationwide.
New Standard, No Sacrifice
First, a few caveats. The truck in question is Chrysler’s Ram 1500 with the base 305 horsepower Pentastar V6 engine mated to a 8-speed automatic transmission. This results in a city rating of 18 MPG, and a 25 highway MPG rating, putting it leagues ahead the current competition.
The next-best rated pickup is the Chevy Silverado Hybrid, which can deliver an EPA-rated 23 MPG on the highway and 20 MPG in the city, though it also has substantially more horsepower and torque. But many times, that extra power is merely going to waste. For the average person who needs a pickup for for its ability to haul volume, as opposed to weight, the new Ram 1500 is a godsend.
Just to give you an idea of what an improvement this is, the outgoing 2012 Ram with the 3.7 liter Magnum V6 was rated at 20 mpg highway. That is a full 25% improvement over the old model, and with no loss in capability; the next Ram 1500 will still be able to tow over 5,600 pounds, and with a starting price of $23,595 including an almost $1,000 destination fee, the next Ram pickup is a formidable contender.
A 5.7 liter HEMI engine will also be available with 395 horsepower and 407 ft-lbs of torque, and all models come with the 8-speed automatic. Additionally,
start/stop will be standard on all the trucks, stop/start will be an option, and improved aerodynamics will contribute massively to the improved fuel economy.
Stacking Up, Looking Good
The new Ram 1500 has the same MPG rating as the mid-size segment of pickups like the 4-cylinder powered Toyota Tacoma. The aforementioned Silverado Hybrid also demands a huge price premium of over $15,000 more than the 2013 Ram 1500. So basically, it is a full-size truck with the fuel economy of a mid-size. That isn’t just raising the standard for full-size trucks; now mid-size trucks will have to improve their fuel economy in order to justify their own existence. That said, I am pretty confident these numbers reflect a regular cab, 2WD setup. Other setups will no doubt lead to a lower MPG rating.
Initial test drives have also been overwhelmingly positive, with high marks for interior quality and on-the-road feel. Chrysler’s new Ram 1500 pickup is a shot across the bow to its Detroit rivals, both of whom are ramping up their own next-generation pickup trucks. But Chrysler has also been openly experimenting with natural gas pickup trucks, recently announcing a CNG option for their top-end models. If costs come down, CNG technology may eventually make sense for lower end models like the Ram 1500.
25 MPG highway is the new standard for base-model pickups; can Ford and GM match the capability of the new Ram without running up costs? Or does America have a new contender for the pickup truck crown?